can gerbils eat cheese

Gerbil’s Natural Dietary Habits

Gerbils, native to arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia, primarily consume a plant-based diet in the wild. Their diet includes seeds, grains, herbs, roots, tubers, and more. Gerbils have a relatively simple digestive system without a cecum or bacteria capable of fiber breakdown. Consequently, their digestive capacity is lower, necessitating frequent eating to maintain body temperature and metabolism. Gerbil teeth continuously grow, requiring them to chew on hard foods to prevent overgrowth.

The Role of Cheese in a Gerbil’s Diet

Cheese, a dairy product produced by fermenting and coagulating milk, contains rich nutrients like proteins, fats, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins, and minerals. There are various types of cheese, such as soft cheeses like cream cheese or mascarpone and hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan. Can gerbils eat cheese? Yes, but moderation and suitability are key.

Gerbils have a limited tolerance for lactose in cheese. Lactose, a disaccharide composed of glucose and galactose, requires lactase for digestion and absorption. Gerbils lack lactase, so excessive lactose intake may lead to indigestion, causing symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Gerbils are better suited for cheeses with low lactose content, such as matured cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan. Matured cheeses have lower lactose due to lactic acid bacteria breaking it down during the production process, and their harder texture aids in gerbil teeth maintenance.

Potential Impact of Cheese on Gerbils

Apart from lactose, cheese contains higher levels of fat and protein, impacting gerbils. While cheese fat provides essential energy, excess intake can lead to obesity, increasing the risk of heart and diabetes issues. Protein in cheese supports gerbil growth, but overconsumption burdens their urea excretion, causing kidney damage. Hence, controlled and infrequent cheese consumption is crucial for gerbil well-being.

Recommendations for Gerbil Cheese Consumption

Considering the above analysis, here are some recommendations to offer suitable cheese to gerbils:

  • Opt for low-lactose matured cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan, avoiding high-lactose soft cheeses like cream cheese or mascarpone.

  • Cut cheese into small pieces for easy chewing, digestion, and to prevent choking hazards.

  • Treat cheese as a snack, not a primary food source. Provide a small piece no more than twice a week to avoid impacting their regular diet and nutritional balance.

  • Monitor gerbil reactions to cheese. If signs of indigestion, bloating, or rapid weight gain appear, cease cheese feeding and promptly consult a veterinarian.

Other Suitable Snack Choices for Gerbils

Beyond cheese, numerous healthy snacks cater to gerbil preferences, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. These snacks diversify their diet, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Here’s an introduction to some common gerbil snacks:

  • Fruits: Gerbils enjoy fruits for their moisture and natural sugars, enhancing appetite and vitality. Suitable fruits include apples, bananas, pears, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. Cut fruits into small pieces, removing cores and peels, offering no more than a teaspoon per serving, up to three times a week to avoid dental issues and obesity.

  • Vegetables: A primary food source for gerbils, vegetables offer fiber and minerals, aiding digestion and preventing constipation and intestinal blockages. Clean and chop vegetables like carrots, broccoli, celery, spinach, lettuce, and cucumber. Serve no more than two teaspoons once a day to maintain appetite and nutrient absorption, avoiding those with oxalates or oxalic acid, such as potatoes, onions, garlic, and beets.

  • Nuts: A favorite of gerbils, nuts supply protein and unsaturated fatty acids, boosting immunity and protecting fur and eyes. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, and peanuts are suitable. Remove shells, cut into small pieces, and offer no more than one small piece per serving, up to twice a week to prevent obesity and fatty liver. Avoid fried or sugar-coated nuts like honey-roasted peanuts or chocolate-covered almonds.


In conclusion, gerbils can enjoy cheese, but it’s crucial to select low-lactose matured varieties, control quantity and frequency, and monitor their response. Cheese should be a sporadic treat, adding enjoyment and nutrition to a gerbil’s life. Besides cheese, a variety of other healthy snacks, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, can be offered in moderation to provide diverse tastes and nutrients. However, maintaining a balanced diet with high-quality gerbil feed, hay, and clean water remains paramount for ensuring the health and happiness of gerbils.

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